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The Senate passes the Inflation Reduction Act and it moves on to the House

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Senate Democrats have passed a major climate, health care and tax bill after months of negotiations.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

It is a centerpiece of President Biden's agenda.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: It's been a long, tough and winding road. But at last, at last, we have arrived. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrated the Inflation Reduction Act clearing the Senate, with Vice President Harris breaking the 50-50 tie.

FADEL: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us now with more. Good morning.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So, Deirdre, how did the Democrats finally push the bill through the Senate?

WALSH: Well, this is a major win for President Biden. And it came well after a year of internal squabbles between moderates and progressives about the size and the scope of the proposal. Remember, Democrats were initially looking at a $3.5 trillion package. And this is roughly 700 billion. But Schumer and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin secretly renewed talks about 10 days ago to put together this framework. Many Democrats were skeptical it would actually happen after Manchin had repeatedly pulled back from negotiations, citing inflation concerns - the last time, just days before the deal was announced. Democrats also needed the votes of Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. They were able to get her on board after taking out a tax provision targeting hedge funds that she opposed.

FADEL: So what's in the bill?

WALSH: Several significant policy changes. This represents the largest federal investment in climate and energy policy. It has a roughly $370 billion for things like tax credits for electric vehicles and money for renewable energy programs. Democrats say these investments are going to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by the end of this decade.

Here's Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey on what this means.

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ED MARKEY: Very few pieces of legislation will ever make the kind of impact that this climate bill will have not just for the United States, but for the entire world.

WALSH: To get Manchin on board, there are provisions for new leases for oil and gas production and also a commitment to pass permitting legislation separately.

FADEL: What about the health care and tax policies?

WALSH: This bill is going to lower the cost of some prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate the prices of certain medications. It will also cap out-of-pocket costs for people on Medicare to about $2,000 per year starting in 2025. The drug industry has lobbied against these things for years, so getting this through was a really big deal. The bill also extends the subsidies for the Affordable Care Act that were part of a pandemic aid relief bill for three more years. And the taxes in this bill include a 15% corporate minimum tax and an excise tax on stock buybacks. They're going to bring in roughly $300 billion in new revenue that will help pay down the deficit.

FADEL: OK. So what happens next with the bill?

WALSH: So the House is scheduled to return from its recess this Friday, and it's expected to approve the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a really small margin. And again, we don't expect any Republican votes, so she's going to have to keep her caucus together. But we're less than three months from the midterms, and Democrats are really eager to move beyond these internal splits and talk about the accomplishments they've been able to get through Congress just in the last few months.

They've passed bipartisan gun reform, veterans health care bill, a bill boosting semiconductor chip production in the U.S. But this domestic energy, climate and health care bill for many is a centerpiece for Democrats, especially those in tight races in the November midterms. Republicans are going to argue that more federal spending is a bad move, with record inflation right now. But there is bipartisan support for things like lowering prescription drug costs.

FADEL: That's NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh. Thanks so much.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.